This project will give 400 acres of seagrass around Ngerkeklau Island permanent protection. This area is valuable habitat for the endangered dugong, hawksbill sea turtle, green sea turtle, and other rare species.
Palau’s dugong population is especially vulnerable, because it is small (only a few hundred animals) and hundreds of miles from other populations. Dugong sightings near Ngerkeklau average four per day; the highest tally yet is 18 in an hour.
Quick action is essential, because the proposed protected area is being eyed by a foreign company as a potential site for sand mining. Dredging for sand could be an environmental disaster, tearing up the sea bottom and destroying seagrass.
Protection of the seagrass area will be both legal and physical. The area will be protected by a new state law, which will forbid any mining, dredging, or other disturbance. These restrictions will also cut down on boat traffic, which is a hazard to dugongs. Park rangers will watch over the area, which is visible from their tower on Ngerkeklau Island. They also have radar that sweeps the area.
Our nonprofit partner, the Ebiil Society, will use a grant to:
- Upgrade sleeping quarters for the rangers, who stay on the island for at least three nights at a time during peak turtle nesting season.
- Install a bathroom with composting toilet.
- Install a floating dock on the east side of the island (the only place the island can be accessed at low tide), to avoid damage to seagrass when boats land.
- Buy standup paddleboards to provide another way for people to get from boats to the island without damaging seagrass.
These efforts will build on a successful 2017 project that protected Ngerkeklau Island itself and 15 acres of coral reef and seagrass meadows around it. The Ebiil Society was our partner for that project as well.